Peterson part of Glavine's revival
Mets pitching coach helped add to lefty's repertoire
NEW YORK -- It wasn't so long ago that Tom Glavine was out of whack.
Already a likely Hall of Famer, Glavine entered 2003 with 242 wins and a World Series ring to his credit. Impressive stuff. But he was also just 37 years old -- relatively green for a pitcher of his soft-tossing nature -- and eager to begin a new era with the Mets. Thoughts of hanging it up couldn't have been further from his mind.
Then came disaster. Controversial QuesTec cameras bullied their way into the psyches of Major League umpires, and with them came a shifted strike zone and some very angry pitchers.
Glavine was certainly among them, with the QuesTec debacle prompting his first losing season since he was 24 years old, and his highest ERA since he was 22. Glavine, suddenly a Hall of Famer by reputation only, needed to reinvent himself -- and quick.
Enter Rick Peterson. The pitching wiz, signed by the Mets that winter to repeat his monumental stretch of success with Oakland, worked with Glavine to change. It wasn't a tweak -- it was a transformation. And just like that, Glavine was back to his Hall of Fame form.
So it's only fitting that Peterson, in celebrating Glavine's 300th career victory, has become something akin to the lefty's biggest fan.
"He's just a true master of what he does," Peterson said. "He now has so many colors on that palette that he can pitch multiple styles of games. He's not someone that's going to overwhelm you with his high-end velocity, but yet he's all about the art of pitching. He's a true master of the art of pitching."
Glavine the master, Peterson the teacher. Yet it wasn't always that way, not back when Peterson first joined the Mets. At that point, his star lefty was essentially a one-trick pony, dotting the outside corner of the strike zone with pitch after pitch -- and doing it awfully well.
But after QuesTec, all that changed. Umpires weren't so keen on calling that outside strike, and Glavine's velocity wasn't nearly such that he could pound the inner half and get away with it.
Peterson suggested a adjustment, likening Glavine's stubborn style to trying to play a round of golf with only two clubs. And Glavine -- nothing short of a golf fanatic -- took the hint.
"If you're 30 yards from the green and you only have one way to get that ball to the hole, you have no shot at winning the tour," Peterson said. "You got to be able to have five or six ways."
Or five or six hundred, it seems, now that Glavine's fastball-changeup special has become just a part of his impossibly large repertoire. Where he once had just two ways to punch a hitter out -- or sometimes none, if the umpire wasn't having it -- he now has upwards of half a dozen, and he's become equally proficient at them all.
None of that would have ever troubled Glavine, of course, had he been able to rear back and fire 95-mph darts to home plate. But that's just not his style. Instead, deception remains the key -- not unlike former Braves teammate Greg Maddux, who was the last to reach 300 wins.
It's the dichotomy between throwing and pitching, and one that Glavine straddles well. He's always been a pitcher by nature -- widely considered one of the smartest the game's ever seen -- and that's why Peterson, who's watched hundreds of anonymous throwers come and go during his career, continues to stand in awe.
"There'll probably never be another Greg Maddux and Tommy Glavine that'll win those kind of games," Peterson said. "Very few of those guys will ever get the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, because people are always looking for 'stuff,' high-end velocity."
Glavine just doesn't have that velocity. Never has, never will. But he certainly does have great stuff, and 300 ways to prove it. It's the type of ability, Peterson crows, that viewers can't appreciate on television. Fans can't see it in the stands, and even his own teammates can't grasp it in the field. Only when a player is in the batters' box, flailing at a fluttering ghost of a pitch, can he truly grasp just how good Glavine's stuff can be.
Peterson's the first to admit that he can't appreciate it either, gazing from afar in the home dugout. But he can appreciate how it got to be that way. The countless hours of preparation. The incessant mental review. The inability -- or unwillingness, rather -- to think about anything else. Peterson understands all that, just as he understands greatness.
"He just does it at a higher level," Peterson said. "When you watch his bullpens, they're game rehearsals. And he's constantly practicing and preparing his craft. That's why he's a true master at what he does."
And as great success has melded into historical success, so too has Peterson's intrigue transformed into awe. He gushes when he talks about Glavine's work ethic, his mechanics, even his hitting.
But most of all, Peterson raves about his star pupil's character. It's not Tom Glavine, it's Tommy Glavine, as much a friend as he is an ace. Those almost 300 victories are just one page of the story, and nobody is more acutely aware of that than the man who put in countless hours to help him reach that mark.
It was help, beams Peterson, that Glavine very much deserved.
"From my perspective," Peterson said, "you would hope that every one of your sons would have the determination and the discipline and the motivation -- you know, the kind of values that Tommy Glavine stands for. He is a Hall of Fame person way before he is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and he's a Hall of Fame pitcher for sure."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.